Game of Thrones: The Definite Character Power Rankings
Josie and I started watching Game of Thrones, shortly after The Battle of Winterfell aired. In case you’re wondering, it takes approximately eight weeks to binge on a semi-reasonable schedule. Milquetoast finale notwithstanding, it’s best television show I’ve ever seen. It stands head and shoulders above the Breaking Bad, Lost and other gorgeously written series I’ve had the privilege to sit through.
There’s a lot of characters in this show. Well over three digits. A cast of maybe 50-60 main characters overall, rotating story arcs throughout eight seasons. So, it’s impossible to conventionally recap. There’s no way I can do it justice that way. So, I had this idea: let’s rank them. Game of Thrones was very much a competition and although showrunners D.B Weiss and David Benioff arbitrarily decided who won, it doesn’t mean they’re allowed to decide who was better.
Here’s how I evaluated it:
Personal enjoyment: Was the character interesting? Was his/her story arc satisfying and well-concluded?Does the character evolve at all?
Pertinence: Was the character necessary to the show’s overall story? Did he/she have a moment and simply drifted into meaninglessness afterwards? Can he/she justify his/her existence without another character?
Longevity: One season-long lifespan and above. Sorry, no Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark or Oberyn Martell. The longer you live and the most episodes you appear in, the better.
I did a pre-screening and weeded out a little less than half the cast already. So here’s my top 60 most important Game of Thrones characters. It’s like the NBA Draft, but with swords and dragons.
Of course, multiple spoilers ahead.
1 - Jon Snow
C’mon. I’m putting him #1 almost in spite of myself. The entire series (and the novels) was structured around him and it’s a shame that Weiss and Benioff denied him the throne at the end. His character is based on King Arthur, for fuck’s sake. How cool is that? The character himself was not that cool, but he embrace his destiny with style until he didn’t.
2 - Sansa Stark
My favorite character on the show along with The Hound. Sansa faced tremendous adversity for the first six seasons of Game of Thrones, but obstinately refused to let it break her. An underrated politician and thinker, he showed great opportunism to survive and improve her position. She didn’t have the richest arc, but she’s the character that changed the most.
3 - Tyrion Lannister
It was a toss-up between Jaime and him for top 3, but Tyrion was most consistently interesting. He was a schemer, but one who crushed every stereotype associated with that concept. Tyrion obstinately refused to let his dwarfism dictate his existence and showed the smarts and the courage to outlive the strongest and best looking characters. The ultimate underdog.
4 - Jaime Lannister
Sole proprietor of the most emotionally impacting moment in the show. He won me over when he told the story of the Mad King’s murder to Brienne in the baths in season 3. I watch television for moments like this, where you’re force to rethink everything you know about a character. His arc became kind of meandering afterwards. I’m still not sure why he didn’t die in the Battle of Winterfell.
5 - Arya Stark
A powerful character who defined herself by the mentors she found along the way: Jon Snow, Jacquen H’Ghar, The Hound, etc. She ended up becoming a collection of these influences and a formidable fighter. I loved her. My only problem is that the show never found anything for her beyond vengeance and vengeance in storytelling is overrated.
6 - Sandor Clegane
The Hound was low-key the most interesting character in the entire show. At first, I didn’t get him. I didn’t understand what he was so angry about. Then, I realized he was just a sad kid who grew up to become a man and what was so cool abut him is that he realized it too. BY FAR the best death in the show. Died doing to his brother exactly what he did to him, except 100 times worse.
7 - Daenerys Targaryen
She was not THAT cool, OK? Daenerys started as an interesting, unlikely outcast and evolved into a pretty stereotypical savior character afterwards. She had a one track mind that didn’t allow for much of an evolution. I would also argue that it was evident she was cuckoo pretty early in the show. She loved to indiscriminately execute people.
8 - Cersei Lannister
As far as enjoyment alone goes, I would rank Cersei significantly lower. She was the least interesting offspring of Tywin for me. But she was also the most important one. She was queen twice in the freakin’ show. TWICE. You gotta respect that. I would’ve loved the tragic loss of her kids and her infamous walk of shame to change her more, though.
9 - Brienne of Tarth
Her character concept is a little cliché, but the fact that she’s a woman gave it a new life. Brienne starts off as a knight looking for a kingdom to defend. She swear her sword to three different people in the first half of the show and finally finds a home next to Sansa. Her unlikely romance with Jaime Lannister based on honor and fighting skills was the best romance on the show.
10 - Theon Greyjoy
Poor Theon. I get what he went through. He basically grew up between a rock and a hard place, feeling a sense of loyalty to the Iron Islands while being well cared for by Ned Stark. He made a lot of bad decisions, paid dearly for them and found his place in the world as a selfless battling eunuch. One of the richest, most fulfilling character arcs in the show.
11 - Tormund Giantsbane
A late riser who became more than what he first promised. When he started trusting Jon Snow and following him along to battle, Tormund became crucial for the survival of Westeros. His good nature and his fondness for Brienne also threw a monkey wrench in expectations for him. I’m still sad she never gave him the time of day, but it makes sense for her character.
12 - Davos Seaworth
Mr. Common Sense. He ended up being the most durable and important member of Stannis Baratheon’s party. Whether it was playing a father figure to Stannis’ daughter Shireen or saving Gendry’s life, Ser Davos always found a way to make himself useful to the storyline. He didn’t evolve much, but didn’t need to. His wisdom made him valuable.
13 - Samwell Tarly
The character who starts the furthest is over the one with the best story arc and it’s exactly what Sam was. I expected him to die throughout season one, but Sam kept showing the courage and the social intelligence to take his place in the Night Watch and stick to people who found him useful. Despite not being a fighter, he showed tremendous courage in battle, too.
14 - Ser Bronn of the Blackwater
I loved this guy. He didn’t respect anything or anyone and did as he pleased. His bromance with Tyrion in the first half of Game of Thrones was quite endearing, but he falls into an accessory role after that. I like that he didn’t die when the show stopped having any use for him. Shows that self-interested people can sometimes get what they want if they aren’t psychopaths.
15 - Jorah Mormont
Ser Jorah of the blue balls. A courageous knight who’s legacy is that he was too old and not sexy enough to win Daenerys’ heart. He had a heel turn halfway into the show, which was pretty cool and unexpected, but Ser Jorah’s inherent goodness and loyalty to her queen ended up getting the best of him. May he have all the sex he wants in heaven.
16 - Petyr Baelish
Perhaps the easiest character to hate in the entire show. Littlefinger knew no shame. He would scheme, lie, betray, murder, anything to gain more power. His relationship to power was super interesting because he always felt weak and seek to stick to more and more powerful people, which ultimately caused his demise. A fresh spin on an old stereotype.
17 - Bran Stark
What a waste of screenplay that character was. Why is it important that he gets to possess animals and other people? He literally stops doing it over the last two seasons. Also why does it make him important that he remembers everything about everyone? Aren’t the maesters the guardians of memory? Bran was basically Google in a wheelchair. There’s no reason why he should’ve been king.
18 - Euron Greyjoy
A usurper in the show and somewhat of a usurper in these rankings, too. He triumphantly got rid of decrepit and useless Balon Greyjoy first, which endeared him to fans of the show. But he became greedier and greedier and sacrificed his heritage for a stake at the Iron Throne. Perhaps the most ambitious character in Game of Thrones?
19 - Joffrey Baratheon
Not exactly the first psychopath king in literature/television, but an interesting one. The show goes into great depth to show his sadistic sex weirdo desires, which are far more interesting than his decisions as king (mostly made by Tywin). Unlike other psychopath Ramsay Bolton, Joffrey felt dangerous and unpredictable. You would not know who he would hurt next or why.
20 - Varys
Here’s a character who would’ve been a shameless, power hungry schemer in any other show. George R. R. Martin made Varys fun, though. By making him completely desireless and privy to the best damn information in Westeros. He wielded power and gave a shit about doing the right thing. He took important risks to let other characters survive, which is always super endearing.
21 - Podrick Payne
My guy. Pod was a classic underachiever. He had every talent: great voice, magic penis, improving swordfighter, etc. But he stubbornly remained a squire until season eight. Podrick is the most relatable character on the show who nothing important ever happens to. He’s just always there to help, even at his own expense.
22 - Tywin Lannister
Old man Lannister was mostly a colossal dipshit, but he struggled with bouts of kindness that made him interesting. Mostly with Arya in Harrenhall in the early seasons. That gave his character texture. Tywin (like his daughter) cared about the family name more than anything. But he cared for smart people who could get out of their own way, too.
23 - The Night King
He doesn’t say shit, but technically… he’s the main bad guy in the show. The Night King is like Channing Tatum: he looks great, he’s got all the moves, but he doesn’t have much under the hood. It doesn’t help that his motivations were only loosely explained by Bran. I mean, the White Walkers were bona fide zombies and zombies are played out.
24 - Yara Greyjoy
She never had enough screen time to justify her existence. Earned a top 25 spot by defying her father’s order to mount a rescue expedition for Theon in season 5 and for making a bid for queen of the Iron Islands. What made Yara great is that she cared about her brother and her family name. And she was a rare LGBTQ character that was not defined by her sexuality.
25 - Catelyn Stark
Poor Mama Stark. She did her best. Her legacy will ultimately be to have been widowed, made prisoner by her own broody son and horribly murdered at the Red Wedding. She also sent Brienne and Jaime Lannister on a trip together, which lead to one of the show’s most powerful moments. Unlike for her husband, she was quickly forgotten, though.
26 - Grey Worm
Sure, he was a great warrior and a leader of men. We saw him plenty because of Daenerys and it was cute when he had sex despite not having a dick. He would’ve fell way outside of the top 30 if he didn’t have his romance thing with Missandei going on. Not a profound character, though. Unless you’re an eunuch, I’m not sure why you’d care for him.
27 - Olenna Tyrell
She was an old woman sitting at tables, plotting and drinking wine. Lady Olenna rarely showed more than her upper body on screen. She was the most important member of House Tyrell, though and a crucial political figure in Westeros. It’s not the screen time as much as the political repercussions of her actions that mattered.
28 - Melisandre
What gave her credibility is that this entire Lord of Light shtick appeared to be more and more true as time went on. People came back from the dead. Sword were magically set ablaze. Followers ended up having important destinies. Melisandre didn’t have much of a storyline to herself, but you got the queasy feeling that she stood for forces more important that herself.
29 - Ramsey Bolton
An important, but vastly overrated character. That dude was basically just a generic psychopath who got off by inflicting pain and seizing power. He was crucial to Theon and Sansa’s development, so I have no choice but to rank him this high. He got old fast, though. His death was satisfying enough to earn extra points, but Ramsay was a one-note song.
30 - Robb Stark
More or less the character Jon is bound to become: a fair and righteous (albeit a tiny bit cliché) leader. What Robb lacks in personality, he makes up with his horrible, horrible death. By far the worst in the entire show. Getting stabbed in the heart, beheaded, having your pet beheaded, it’s head sewn on yours and your body paraded like a victory puppet… people will remember that.
31 - Gendry
Loved him. Fell of the face of the Earth after being saved by Ser Davos. It’s not clear why he was brought back, but I enjoyed his quest for legitimacy.
32 - The High Sparrow
A more conventional antagonist, but a good one.Completely consumed by his religious beliefs. Looked like a wandering mental hospital patient.
33 - Missandei
She had a shitload of screen time because of Daenerys, but never had a proper identity. She had little desires outside serving her queen.
34 - Beric Dondarrion
He had the unhealthy vibe of a man who sold his soul to the devil. He justified his importance by having one of the 5 coolest deaths in the show.
35 - Jacquen H'Ghar
Some kind of sexy, ruthless killing machine. Never understood the Many-Faced God thing, but who cares?He turned Arya into a killing machine.
36 - Stannis Baratheon
Of all the characters in his party, he ended up being the least important. He was rigid, narrow-minded and in a religious cult. Cost him his life.
37 - Hodor
By far, the least annoying member of Bran’s pointless journey north of the wall. He was strong, courageous and knew only one word. It helps.
38 - Ygritte
Another great character who wouldn’t exist on its own. Her mere existence put Jon Snow in the ethical dilemma that helped him save Westeros.
39 - Margaery Tyrell
A fierce politician with a kind heart. That’s pretty much a death sentence if you get all up in Cersei Lannister’s shit. And that’s all she did.
40 - Tommen Baratheon
The least important character who sat on the Iron Throne for over a season. He was sweet, gullible and entirely forgotten by season 7.
41 - Gregor Clegane
Does he even talk? I think he says a line or two in season 4, but that’s it. The Mountain wouldn’t be shit without his badass brother.
42 - Daario Naharis
Who doesn’t love a guy who offers a bag full of human heads to his romantic interest? Too bad just disappears at some point.
43 - Qyburn
He was enjoyable for being a sympathetic, rational guy who did ungodly shit in his lab. By far the least annoying grandmaester.
44 - Roose Bolton
He served two purposes: 1) stab Robb Stark in the heart and 2) introduce his son Ramsay. A stereotype, but vital to more important storylines.
45 - Mance Rayder
The least important king in Westeros. His most important moment in the show was getting executed by Stannis Baratheon in Castle Black.
46 - Meryn Trant
Another character I wished a horrible death upon. Henchmen who are too proud to do another character’s bidding tend to get under my skin.
47 - Maester Aemon
A little sterotypical old mentor figure. He lands on this list for being so formative to Samwell Tarly’s personality. He served his purpose.
48 - Ellaria Sand
One of these characters who most definitely don’t deserve their fate. Good mother. Fierce politician. Consumed by revenge. A real sweetheart.
49 - Barristan Selmy
He’s technically important, but it’s never clear why. we should care. If he had been Jorah’s only romantic rival, maybe he would’ve had a chance.
50 - Gilly
Love Gilly. But the only reason why she exist is to give Sam a responsibility he could handle. She’s great, but doesn’t exist on her own.
51 - Allister Thorne
He wouldn’t have been on this list if he hadn’t been force to become Jon’s second in command. That made him more than a stereotype.
52 - Grand Maester Pycelle
From the first season on, I couldn’t wait until his impending horrible death. That’s how you know a character’s efficient. He’s getting to you.
53 - The Waif
I liked her a lot. She wouldn’t even have existed without Arya Stark. She doesn’t even have a name of her own. She was a cool part of Arya’s story.
54 - Lancel Lannister
Cousin Lancel went from Cersei’s underage boy toy to sexy, buff religious weirdo in the span of five season. Gotta respect that hustle.
55 - Benjen Stark
He disappeared twenty minutes into the show and brought back in season 6 to solve problems. A deus ex machina, but a pretty cool one.
56 - Lyanna Mormont
I liked her. She served no purpose whatsoever outside of showing courage had no gender or age, but I liked her anyway. She was fierce.
57 - Shae
I almost left her off this list. Two reasons she’s on there: Tyrion genuinely loved her and she’s indirectly responsible for Tywin’s murder.
58 - Renly Baratheon
The only reason why Renly is on this list is that his claim for the Iron Throne served to introduce righteous badass Brienne of Tarth.
59 - Lysa Arryn
Aunt Lysa’s only purpose was for Littlefinger to push her through the moon door and steal her army. But still, she was awesomely weird.
60- Hot Pie
Screw you if you don’t think Hot Pie was awesome. His passion for cuisine made me hungry every time he showed up. Respect my dude.